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  • Published: 17 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9780141990620
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $28.00

Plunder of the Commons

A Manifesto for Sharing Public Wealth




A vital and incisive solution to many of the problems society faces today: we must reclaim the commons.

We are losing the commons. Austerity and neoliberal policies have depleted our shared wealth; our national utilities have been sold off to foreign conglomerates, social housing is almost non-existent, our parks are cordoned off for private events and our national art galleries are sponsored by banks and oil companies. This plunder deprives us all of our common rights, recognized as far back as the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest of 1217, to share fairly and equitably in our public wealth.

Guy Standing leads us through a new appraisal of the commons, stemming from the medieval concept of common land reserved in ancient law from marauding barons, to his modern reappraisal of the resources we all hold in common - a brilliant new synthesis that crystallises quite how much public wealth has been redirected to the 1% in recent decades through the state-approved exploitation of everything from our land to our state housing, health and benefit systems, to our justice system, schools, newspapers and even the air we breathe. Plunder of the Commons proposes a charter for a new form of commoning, of remembering, guarding and sharing that which belongs to us all, to slash inequality and soothe our current political instability.

  • Published: 17 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9780141990620
  • Imprint: Penguin Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • RRP: $28.00

About the author

Guy Standing

Guy Standing has a PhD in Economics from the University of Cambridge. He has held professorships at the University of Bath and SOAS, University of London, following a long career at the International Labour organisation in Geneva, and has advised the UN, World Bank and governments around the world on labour and social policy. He is currently a professorial research associate at SOAS. In 1986 he co-founded the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) and now serves as its honorary co-President. He has been invited to speak on the precariat and basic income in over 350 locations since his bestselling book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class was first published in 2011. He lives in Switzerland and is a Fellow of the British Academy of Social Sciences.

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Praise for Plunder of the Commons

Brilliant, insightful, terse, apposite, daring, and transformative. A must read to understand both the past and the future

Danny Dorling, author of All That Is Solid

Guy Standing brings great historical knowledge, political insight, and passion to documenting the market enclosures of our common wealth: the great unacknowledged scourge of our time. Plunder of the Commons is both a troubling exposé and a practical-minded call to reclaim the commons for ourselves and posterity. Sitting politicians will ignore this stirring book at their peril. Incoming reformers will learn how we might transform our predatory system of economics and the complicit political culture.

David Bollier, Director of the Reinventing the Commons Program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics and author of Free, Fair and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons

In an era of intensifying privatisation, we're rapidly losing sight of the idea that there are things that can be shared communally without being owned by anybody, things that stand outside of the market system - for example rivers, forests, and other natural resources. Many of them have already been sold off to private interests, and most of the rest are being pursued. This incendiary book exposes this process and explores its corrosive effect on society and resource maintenance. This clear and radical exposition is a call for the defence of the commons, and one of the most important books I've read in years.

Brian Eno

In this majestic work, Guy Standing not only chronicles the historic plundering of our common wealth. More importantly, he shows how we can reclaim that wealth to address our most urgent contemporary problems: economic insecurity and ecological destruction. This is history, analysis and vision, all at their very best.

Peter Barnes, author of Capitalism 3.0

Standing not only wants to remind us how much common land in Britain has been enclosed by the wealthy few. His vision of the commons is extremely capacious...his provocation could hardly be timelier

Duncan Kelly, Financial Times

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